x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Construction of Zaha Hadid’s The Opus in Dubai a challenge for engineers

From building a steel bridge to link two towers to selecting glazing to prevent solar heat from damaging the glass facade, construction on The Opus has been a learning experience for engineers and architects alike.

Special glazing was selected to prevent overheating when the sun’s rays reflect over to the other side of the building. Photo courtesy Omniyat
Special glazing was selected to prevent overheating when the sun’s rays reflect over to the other side of the building. Photo courtesy Omniyat

DUBAI // From building a steel bridge to link two towers to selecting glazing to prevent solar heat from damaging the glass facade, construction on The Opus has been a learning experience for engineers and architects alike.

Consultancy Koltay Facades realised that the Sun’s intense rays could bounce off a curved surface on one side of the inner void and reflect on to the opposite side.

The team worked to prevent problems such as those caused two years ago when the design and mirrored glass on a London skyscraper, nicknamed the Walkie Talkie, melted parts of cars and singed carpets in shops on the street below.

“At one point we noticed that one part of the facade forms a large lens-shape and can reflect focalised solar heat to the other side of the void. This focalised solar energy could lead to thermal breakage of the glass,” said Agnes Koltay, director of Koltay Facades.

“To avoid problems, we needed to select glazing that has external solar energy reflectance values below a certain limit while still complying with the aesthetics intended by the architects.”

Mohammed Hmeid, sales and marketing director of developer Omniyat, said a fritting, glazing pattern in the form of pixelated ridges, designed by the late Zaha Hadid, was the key.

“The flat facade contains a mirror frit that will reflect the Sun’s rays to some degree while also providing an interesting reflection when viewing the building from different directions ... The building actually is two towers together, so they will in fact shade each other for a large part of the day. All glass used contains the latest UV coatings to reduce solar gain and glare within the spaces.”

Constructing the 40-metre steel bridge joining the towers was another challenge.

“This involved thousands of engineering hours, producing hundreds of hand calculations for each and every steel connection to ensure its adequacy. Due to the complexity, computer calculations required checking to ensure earthquake loads were taken into account,” Mr Hmeid said.

Meetings were held with the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority who worked with the building designer to ensure the structure’s integrity.

Experts said ambitious, riveting architecture showcases a city’s future.

“Distinctive architecture is what sets it apart from any other city,” said Janet Bellotto, an associate professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University.

“It can be that a unique building heightens our experience through its design and materials, reflect current trends or investigations and it considers the future of the city. As an artist, distinctive architecture is inspiring, it is an important part of the future city and can encourage new avenues to explore.”

Tourists too await the project’s completion.

“I saw photos of the building’s liquid (like) insides and wanted to see it,” said Hai Zhang, a Chinese tourist clicking photos of the building after visiting the new Dubai Canal.

“When I came four years ago there was no canal, now it’s full of water. Things keep changing here.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae